Feb 12, 2018

Teen girl looking scared using a smartphone to make a call while two dark figures pursue her

As if keeping track of kids isn’t difficult enough – Snapchat’s newest feature makes it a digital nightmare.

Over the Summer, Snapchat launched a new feature called Snap Map. Snap Map allows users to place themselves on a virtual map, showing their location to friends. They can enable this feature by updating their app, then pinching the screen to zoom out – revealing the exact location of friends on a map.

Now, that Snap Map feature is available to all online users through a dedicated website, https://map.snapchat.com. What this means for users is that any public story is now viewable through that link, whether you’re a Snapchat user or not. For parents, the main concern is: ‘Who is able to watch my child’s snaps and find their location?’

First things first – make sure that if your child is using Snapchat, they’re Snap Map settings should be set to “Ghost Mode”. Read more below to learn how to disable this location tracking feature and keep your kids safe.

What is Snap Map?

Before we dive into the safety concerns, let’s talk about the details of this feature. First, the Snap Map uses “Actionmojis” – similar to a bitmoji cartoon character you can create in your likeness. A Team Snap release explains actionmojis further. “To infer the best Actionmoji, Snapchat may look at things like your location, time of day, or speed of travel. Examples of Actionmojis today include things like: at the beach, at the airport, sitting, and a handful more.”

The Snap team announced the new Snap Map feature with limited information stating, “It's easy to get started — just pinch to zoom out and view the Map! You decide if you want to share your location with friends, or simply keep it to yourself with Ghost Mode.


The big question is: what are the safety issues associated with this new feature? Well, there are quite a few. Since a whopping 75 percent of teens use Snapchat, according to Science Daily, the safety issues raised are substantial.

Broadcasting your location puts users at risk for stalkers, bullies, predators and stranger danger, it almost encourages location spying on your friends, acquaintances and loved ones. Also… strangers. Yes, anyone who follows you on Snapchat could potentially have access to your location – and not just in confusing coordinates, but on a local map that gives detail down to the street.

According to Elite Daily, “This animated map walks quite a thin line between being informative and downright creepy.” I don’t know about you, but there are some people who I’d prefer don’t know my exact location at all times. There may be friends you’ve fallen out of favor with, bosses and co-workers, ex-partners and love interests. So, why would you even want to broadcast your location?

"In a lot of ways, we're taking what a map is and turning it upside down," Jack Brody, a product designer at Snap, told Refinery29. "This map isn't about where am I, it's about where are my friends and what are they up to? It's not about figuring out how to get to your destination, but about discovering where you want to go."

The difficulty with Brody’s statement is that he assumes users will be accessing this new feature with his same intention. And yes, connecting with friends is great and seeing what’s happening around you can be interesting, but if you’re actually friends with someone, wouldn’t you already know their destination? The sad fact is that not all users will be as oriented to just discover snap-worthy events going on around them – some will use this to discover detailed locations of specific people.

Screenshot of a snapmap with avatar named gerry

What You Can Do

First of all, talk to your child about their social media use. If they use Snapchat to connect with their friends and peers, make sure they enable Ghost Mode right away. There are varying levels you can enable for Snap Map: Ghost Mode, My Friends or Select Friends. You can do this by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner. This is the settings button and from there, you can change your Snap Map preference.

Snapchat ghost mode settings

For a step-by-step walkthrough of how to turn off location tracking for Snapchat, watch this video.

Jennifer Leonard

Jennifer Leonard, Social Media Manager for Content Watch, is passionate about connecting with people – in person and via social media. She spends her days writing, tweeting, pinning and using as many hashtags she possibly can. #Goals #SocialLife #Hustle